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The Hindi-Bindi Club
The Hindi-Bindi Club
by Monica Pradhan
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.75

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Join this club!, 30 Oct 2007
This review is from: The Hindi-Bindi Club (Paperback)
This is a glorious book. It's a witty, funny, engaging and romantic but also deftly addresses some quite weighty issues of immigration, assimilation and multi-culturalism as well as personal pain and loss.

Its effortless prose and perfectly judged dialogue sweeps you in to the lives of six women: three mothers, the Hindi Bindi Club, who left India in the 50s and 60s to begin new lives with their husbands in the States and their daughters all born in the USA. They tell their stories in alternating chapters, the daughters facing problems in the present and the mothers dealing with their cultural heritage as wives and mothers in America.

Kiran is a doctor and estranged from her family since her "unsuitable" marriage to a musician, she is now divorced and feels her biological clock ticking so she returns home for the holidays to discuss an unexpected way of finding a husband. Meenal, her mother, has had to confront a life changing experience since they last were together. Preity was always the goody two shoes but her mother Saroj's conspicuous displays of wealth conceal her memories of the horrors of Partition and an extraordinary secret. Rani is a successful artist who has just had her first show but has lost her inspiration and her successful, academic mother Uma carries with her the hurt of being told never to return to India after her marriage to a Westerner. Kiran's search for a husband begins a journey which takes them places they never thought they would go.

These six people and their stories are the building blocks of a wonderful personal story which will take you across India and through its history and its diversity of languages, cultures and religions - and recipes!


Hearts and Minds
Hearts and Minds
by Rosy Thornton
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another great book from Rosy Thornton, 30 Oct 2007
This review is from: Hearts and Minds (Hardcover)
I was just summoning up the emotional energy that was going to be required to read the latest Booker Prize winner, when this book dropped through the letter box and rescued me from that fate by immediately engaging me in the world of St Radegund's College, Cambridge, who has just broken with 150 years of tradition by appointing former BBC executive James Rycarte as its new Head of House.

As he settles into the chintz, frills and furbelows of the former much loved Mistress's house, he finds that all is not well at St R's: the library is falling down, the students are running a rent strike and he has forgotten to get his bike pass! When he is offered a large donation by an old friend whose daughter is competing for a place at the college he thinks he has come up with the perfect solution for getting new funding to the college. With the support of Dr Martha Pearce, the Senior Tutor, who he is coming to value and rely on more and more as the days go by, he thinks he can win over the Fellows to his point of view. He could not be more wrong as his proposal brings into the open some very tough opposition and the question on everyone's lips is how long he will survive as the new "Master". As Martha Pearce puts her own problems on hold to support him and the college that has become the centre of her life, James finds she is becoming someone he cannot do without.

Gently poking fun at the idiosyncrasies of Oxbridge colleges, it is a crisp, witty and clever tale of strong women and unlikely solutions.


Echo Park (Harry Bosch)
Echo Park (Harry Bosch)
by Michael Connelly
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly crafted thriller, 23 Aug 2007
Another great Harry Bosch story. Michael Connelly is such a superb storyteller that you can read it a as stand alone novel or enjoy it as the next in the series.

Bosch is now in the Open-Unsolved Unit where he still keeps the file on the Marie Gesto case on his desk 13 years after her murder. It was never solved and is the one case Harry wants to crack above all others. Out of the blue he gets a call from the DA; a suspect has agreed to plead to the killing to avoid the death penalty on the new murder charge he now faces.

As he works the case he starts to realise the he and his partner may well have missed vital evidence which would have lead them to the murderer at the time and that the new suspect may in fact be innocent of this crime but guilty of many more he has not admitted to. Bosch starts to doubt the motives of the DA who is running for office and when the suspect escapes leaving two dead cops he is forced to contact an FBI profiler from the FBI to track him down and get to the bottom of what is really going on.

This is superbly crafted thriller; Connelly has woven five different and intriguing strands into this story - old murder, current murder, a serial killer, a dodgy DA, old relationships, new friends and lots of twist and turns along the way.


More Than Love Letters
More Than Love Letters
by Rosy Thornton
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Romance, political satire, wit, wisdom and irony., 23 Aug 2007
This review is from: More Than Love Letters (Paperback)
An impulse buy, this was a very lucky find and I can't wait to read more from Rosie Thornton.

In the introduction this new author says that in the first draft of the novel she made the rookie error of forgetting to include a plot - well, in the final version she's certainly cracked it. The plot is incredibly strong and will appeal to anyone with a love of the English language, At its heart this is a romance. When Richard Slater MP receives a letter from Margaret Hayton complaining about VAT on tampons, he sends back a standard letter. When he receives further letters about the children's playground facilities, greenhouse gas emissions and dog poo, he decides that she is barking mad old biddy. But when eventually he meets her, he finds a beautiful twenty-something with big eyes over whom he could lose his heart and his political career.

But is a great deal more, gently and good-heartedly addressing issues of honesty and deceit, love and loss, old age, divorce, drug rehab, asylum seekers, sex and political intrigue - to name but a few!. The novel is told through a glorious mix of letters, emails, minutes of meetings, Hansard reports and newspaper articles as the loves, lives and idiosyncrasies of a wonderful cast of characters are revealed. Margaret has joined a women's group in support of Asylum seekers and the minutes of their meetings are a joy as are the emails between her and her best friend in Manchester who is working her way alphabetically through the men of Moss Side, her landlady's letters to her husband are heartrending and Richard Slater's emails to his friend the MP for West Bromwich are a comic masterpiece.


Preludes Airs And Yodels [A Penguin Cafe Primer]
Preludes Airs And Yodels [A Penguin Cafe Primer]
Price: 7.88

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful !, 25 July 2007
Found this gem while looking for something else entirely. The Penguin Café are new to me - but not their music. You'll recognise Telephone and Rubber Band from a well known advert and I've heard Music for a Found Harmonium a thousand times without knowing who it was by.

This is a wonderful compilation and a great introduction to PCO's music, some tracks date back to 1976 but it includes a great 1996 ORB remix Pandaharmonium.

The PCO was the brainchild of the English composer and multi-instrumentalist Simon Jeffes (1949-1997). You can read more about this fascinating band on [...] but the music speaks for itself.


The Burglar Diaries
The Burglar Diaries
by Danny King
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amoral, chauvinistic, crude, rude and totally compelling., 25 July 2007
This review is from: The Burglar Diaries (Paperback)
If liberal usage of the "f" word or "c" word offends you, read no further; and if you've ever been burgled, I'm not sure you will get into the spirit of the thing.

If none of the above puts you off, you're in for a treat. Bex, the burglar of the title, has been a moderately successful burglar but now has a story to tell, and he tells it as it is, including all his f***-ups and lots of other people's c***-ups. If you can put your moral indignation on hold, you will cheer at narrow escapes and laugh out loud at razor sharp wit and great anecdotes. The prison tea schedule is a classic. From the moment you meet Bex and his mate Ollie on a job that goes disastrously wrong because there is no bog paper in the loo, the plot unwinds cleverly towards a finale where doing the wrong thing might just turn out to be the right thing.

The Burglar Diaries may have four Fs, three Cs and a couple of wankers on each page but it is also a carefully crafted and truly witty read. But there are no messages in this book other than locking all your doors and windows before going out really does work!


The Voice of the Violin (Inspector Montalbano Mysteries)
The Voice of the Violin (Inspector Montalbano Mysteries)
by Andrea Camilleri
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you read one novel this year it should be something by Andrea Camilleri., 25 July 2007
If you read one novel this year it should be something by Andrea Camilleri. The Voice of the Violin was the first one I read but I recommend you start with The Shape of Water and read them all as I am now doing. Camilleri's stories are based in Sicily and, while his central character Inspector Montalbano unravels intriguing murder mysteries, he brings you the sights and sound, tastes and smells of this fascinating island.

The plot focuses on the murder of a young woman and the Inspector works his way through an intriguing list of suspects, via several gastronomic experiences to a very satisfying dénouement. The supporting cast is excellent; Constable Catarella is a comic masterpiece. But this is much more than your average detective novel; the characters have depth and weight, the setting is beautifully brought to life and plays its part in the story; Montalbano's character is so well developed that it drives the narrative at the same time as it draws you in to the complexities of his personal and professional life.


The Needle in the Blood
The Needle in the Blood
by Sarah Bower
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.99

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1066 and all that?, 31 May 2007
I haven't read any historical fiction for a while, nothing has really appealed, but the headline on the beautiful cover of The Needle in the Blood offered a tale of sex, lies and embroidery so I thought I would give it a go. The book grips from the first chapter; you are thrown into the middle of the Battle of Hastings, with Odo, brother to William the Conqueror, rallying the Norman troops, fearing his brother has died on the battlefield. We soon learn that the battle is won and the history of England changes forever. In the aftermath of the battle the rumour is that Harold has been killed by an arrow in the eye; it's the first lie, the reality is that his body has been hacked to pieces and mutilated but the arrow in the eye story will be recorded for posterity in the Bayeux tapestry.

Amongst the Saxon women who come to claim his body is Gytha, handmaid to the mistress of the fallen king and a talented embroiderer. She returns to Winchester with the women, only to witness the pillaging of her mistress's home and to submit to rape to save a Saxon soldier about to be put to death. When the unconventional Bishop Odo decides to commission a wall hanging to commemorate the battle, Gytha is among the women recruited to work on the embroidery. Forced to work as a prostitute to survive, she reluctantly agrees to work for the Norman court; she sees an opportunity for revenge and when she meets Odo again she is armed with a sharp knife and a thirst for vengeance. But in this book nothing is as it seems and as she falls in love with him and so the lies and intrigue begin, with as many lies stitched into the tapestry as are told among the wonderfully full and vibrant cast of characters that people this book.

This is a must read for anyone looking for a strong and intense story, beautifully told by someone with the skill to bring this extraordinary period in our history so colourfully to life - and is a must read for anyone visiting Bayeux to see the tapestry.


The Lovers' Room
The Lovers' Room
by Steven Carroll
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.03

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hidden depths, 21 May 2007
This review is from: The Lovers' Room (Paperback)
I came away from the recent London Book Fair with three books written by Australian authors; two were complete stinkers and are winging their way to charity shops but the nice people from Mira let me have a copy of The Lover's Room. This is glorious book which I will keep on the shelf to reread because, as well as being an intriguing story beautifully told, it is it has hidden depths - layers I am sure I didn't peel off on the first read.

The lovers' room belongs to Momoko, a British-educated Japanese woman forced to return to Tokyo at the outbreak of war with her diplomat father. Her outward dignity and serenity belie the exhaustion she feels after four years of war, the devastation of her country and the loss of so many loved ones. When she meets Alan "Spin" Bowler she wants to believe that at last she has a chance for happiness. Spin is an Australian working as a translator in the British Army of Occupation and had briefly met Momoko before the war at a diplomatic reception in London. Consorting with the "enemy" is forbidden but they both find love and security in stolen moments in their secret hideaway until a jealous act of betrayal tears them apart and changes the course of their lives forever. Fast forward to 1973 and a chance encounter with an English student launches Spin, now a Professor in Melbourne, on a journey to discover what really happened that day and what might have become of Momoko.

A story of love, betrayal, guilt and survival, it is also an examination of truth and reality, illusion and self delusion; you are challenged throughout the book to examine what you are reading from this perspective and it is this which gives the book its edge and energy.


Crow Stone
Crow Stone
by Jenni Mills
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning debut, 17 May 2007
This review is from: Crow Stone (Hardcover)
This is a stunning debut - a gripping psychological thriller that hooks you in from word one and then opens out into a gripping plot with pace, articulate and complex characters, wit, tension and a great ending.

Jenni Mills has constructed an intriguing and multi-layered story built around Kit, a mining engineer, who finds herself back in the Bath she left as a teenager, whisked away in a black car in mysterious circumstances. Back then she was Katie, growing up with an unpredictable father, searching for her mother, making friends, falling in love, buying clothes, studying, partying and generally have a difficult time.

Now she is back, unwillingly and with a gloriously gay archaeology professor in tow, to shore up the unstable mines around her old home. He is in on the trail of the temple of a secretive pre-Christian sect somewhere under the city. She just wants to get the job done, bury the past and leave - but someone is watching in the shadows and will use her past and her present to threaten her life and her sanity.

Effortlessly moving between the 1970s and the present day, this is a story told with a lightness of touch and great comic moments which belie its eventual dark and disturbing revelations.


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